Henry Kissinger’s “mad and illegal” bombing

What you need to know about his real history — and why the Sanders/Clinton exchange matters

Sanders is right about Kissinger. His civilian death toll nears 4 million, his policies built today’s Middle East

Henry Kissinger's "mad and illegal" bombing: What you need to know about his real history -- and why the Sanders/Clinton exchange mattersFormer Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talk during an interview by PBS’ Charlie Rose(Credit: Associated Press)

Vote Hillary, get Henry. That seemed to be the message Hillary Clinton wants to send; she’s spoken highly of Kissinger in her last two debates with Bernie Sanders. Last night, Sanders fired back at Clinton for seeking foreign-policy wisdom from the Vietnam-era secretary of state. “I find it rather amazing,” Sanders said, “given that I happen to believe that Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country. I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger.”

Maybe Kissinger will be the Dick Cheney of this campaign, angling for a shot at a dark-lord VP, you know, like Cheney himself. I doubt it. Though, at 92 and still a congenital publicity seeker, he must be enjoying himself.

In my most recent book, “Kissinger’s Shadow,” I tried to use Kissinger as a window onto both the collapse of the national security state, brought about by Vietnam, its reconstruction on new footings reading to meet the challenges of 1970s and beyond. It is in that reconstruction, in which Kissinger was key, that one can find the beginning of the militarization of the Persian Gulf – that is, the seeds sprouting the catastrophe we now find ourselves in.

As I wrote a few months ago for TomDispatch:

“Similarly, each of Kissinger’s Middle East initiatives has been disastrous in the long run. Just think about them from the vantage point of 2015: banking on despots, inflating the Shah, providing massive amounts of aid to security forces that tortured and terrorized democrats, pumping up the U.S. defense industry with recycled petrodollars and so spurring a Middle East arms race financed by high gas prices, emboldening Pakistan’s intelligence service, nurturing Islamic fundamentalism, playing Iran and the Kurds off against Iraq, and then Iraq and Iran off against the Kurds, and committing Washington to defending Israel’s occupation of Arab lands. Combined, they’ve helped bind the modern Middle East into a knot that even Alexander’s sword couldn’t sever.”

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